A Doxology and Prayer

Blessed are you, our Lord, king of the cosmos, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season; blessed are you, who bestows good things upon the unworthy, and has bestowed upon me every goodness; blessed are you, who has made nothing lacking in his world, and created within it good creations and good trees for your children to enjoy!  Blessed are you, the father of all, whose counsel is done by his own powers, who wishes to be known and is known by his own people; blessed are you, who by the word have constituted all things that are, whom all nature was born as image, whom nature has not produced a like figure; blessed are you, who surpass every excellence, who are stronger than every power, who are mightier than all praises.  Blessed are you, now and forever, here and everywhere.  Glory to God in the highest, to whom all glory is properly due!

My honor and gratitude to my ancestors: those of my blood, bone, flesh, and kin; those of my traditions, lineage, practices, and spirituality; those of my labor, trade, profession, and craft; those of my culture whose names everyone knows; those those names we have forgotten but whose presence we still feel; those who have passed away in my lifetime, and those who have passed away well before my birth.  We walk upon the ground you once walked upon, we breathe now the air you once breathed, we drink the water you once drank; your blood flows in our veins, your breath fills our lungs, your words echo in our ears even now.  We live today because of you; were it not for you, none of us today could live.  As we tread upon your bones and stand on your shoulders, may you uplift us and guide us that we may ever reach higher honorably, and in doing so, raise you up nobly in the world after this.  May every ancestor of each and every one of us be honored, remembered, and praised forevermore, that your spirits may never truly depart from the memory of your children.

My honor and gratitude to my family, especially my mother and my father and my sister and my brother, who nurtured and nurture me, with whom I grew and grow up.  Through the mere circumstances of my birth, I have been blessed with parents, siblings, cousins, and others who have supported me, uplifted me, and established me in the world for my own success, which encourages the success of us all.  Through the happenstance of my mother’s bearing me into the world have I been fortunate to find love, camaraderie, education, nourishment, and prosperity which would have been impossible were it not for them, and through the guidance of all my family have I been shown the manifold and innumerable opportunities for me to explore of the world.  May I always do my family honor, even should we disagree on the insignificant things; may I always make my family prosperous, even should we falter in faith in each other; may I always support my family proudly, even should we drift apart across the seas and generations.

My honor and gratitude to my teachers, instructors, and mentors in all subjects, numeric or artistic, physical or philosophical, material or immaterial, mundane or spiritual; whether you taught me as a child or as an adult, you are my teachers all the same.  It is because of you I have a love of learning, and it is by you I have a rigor for research.  From your hands and mouths have wisdom, knowledge, and understanding been passed onto me according to your own, and by my own do I hope to do right by your memory and build upon it where possible and to correct it when necessary.  Though you might have become fallible through your humanity, may I never speak ill of you, for the gifts you have given me surpass any critique except that which makes them better, which you yourselves would have endeavored to do, just as you encourage me to do.

My honor and gratitude to my friends, who guided me when I needed it, who celebrated with me when we could, who struggled with me when we had to, who cried with me in our sorrow.  May we always support each other and keep far from deceit and misunderstanding, that no obstacle may be too huge for us to overcome.  May we continue to look after each other as we look after ourselves, in joy and in grief, in luxury and in poverty, in wisdom and in folly, for the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb, and no truer connection can be made than those made freely out of our own free will.  Distant though we might be in time and space, the memories and impacts we have made will last forever, and always will you be honored in my life.  Even through our difficulties and through our distance, may we always keep each other aloft in our hearts, minds, and worlds through our memories and our care for each other.

My honor and gratitude to my husband, a kindred soul with whom I have become united, married together before the presence and sight of the gods and men.  A happy and strange couple we make, but the binding force of our love for each other overcomes all differences, difficulties, and dearth that the world would see thrust upon us.  Just as you complement me, I complement you; we come from different worlds, sometimes truly so, and through our union do we each help the other in areas each of us alone would be left to despair.  Just as you support me, I support you; we have embarked into a new life together, and even though we have our own magna opera to achieve, we help each other do so as we continue to achieve our shared magnum opus.  Stand by me that I may always stand by you, you who are my love, you who are my lover, you who are my beloved.  I have never loved you more than I love you now; I love you far more than I did yesterday, and far less than I shall tomorrow.

My honor and gratitude to the innumerable spirits with whom I have worked, on whom I have called, and by whom have I prospered.  Whether a spirit of the four elements, the seven planets, the ten heavens, the 12 signs, the 16 figures, the 24 hours, the 28 mansions, the 360 degrees, or any of the infinite stars in the nighttime sky; whether a spirit of the dead, the living, or the unborn-undying; whether a spirit of humanity, a spirit of those who were once human, or a spirit who was never human at any time before; whether a spirit assigned to me by higher powers or a spirit come to me of their own volition; whether a spirit of the ouranic, chthonic, thalassic, or gaic realms; whether deity of any pantheon, angel of any choir, saint of any patronage, demon of any operation, or devil of any hell; whether immanent or transcendent, present or absent; whether I have called upon you or have yet to do so in the constantly-passing passage of time!  I plead before you for your support for all the tasks I have yet to do, just as I plead before the Almighty for your well-being and power and grace.  My praise, thanks, and honor go to you, your words, your guidance, your actions, and your support to me in my life and in my Work.

My honor and gratitude to Hermes: blessed god, powerful god, splendid god, mighty god; god of travelers, roads, passages, and tricks; god of guides and guide of gods, men spirits, souls, and heroes.  Grant that I may always praise, rejoice, and celebrate you, that all the people of all the world, regardless of language, origin, age, or habit may come to honor, glorify, and praise you to sing your songs, dance your dances, and carry out your work for you in the cosmos.  It is because of you I stepped forth on the path that led me where I am today, and it is always with you in one form or another, by one name or another, wearing one mask or another, that I always shall travel to my ultimate and final destination.  Your hand opens the door for me; your wand points the way for me; your presence protects my own at all crossroads, both of the land and of the mind.  Before all others in time and thought, you are my patron among the theos; watch over me, and keep me far and safe from all pain, plague, poison, illness, injury, infirmity, death, disease, defilement, all harm and all misfortune and all witchcraft, wheresoever I may go.

May all that has happened before continue to teach, guide, instruct, and fortify me as I continue into the future.  May old pacts be renewed, alliances reinforced, works restarted, and offerings refreshed.  May I not abandon my original goals, but widen the scope of my horizons to go where I must go, know what I must know, do what I must do, and become what I must be.

Amen, amen, amen.

My honor and gratitude to my godfather and my godmother, and through them the rest of my godfamily, who have welcomed me as one of their own, despite all barriers and overcoming all obstacles.  Far more than any teacher, far more than any colleague, far more than any friend have my godparents stood up for me; by the hands, heart, and breath of my godfather has power, privilege, and divine right been passed onto me, and by the care, awareness, and perseverance of my godmother have I been empowered and protected.  The presence and power of the divine is now carried by my soul and body in ways subtle and mysterious, which I could never have known were it not for the grace and lenience of my godparents, just as it was passed onto them through their godparents, and through all the lineage into the distant reaches of time.  May I grow tall, strong, and prosperous under your tutelage; may I never dishonor, disgrace, or debase what you have passed onto me.  As you have granted me the grace of divinity through your right, may God grant me the grace to one day pass on what has been passed on to me in at least as good a condition as I received it, and by the grace of God, better than anyone could have hoped for.

As the days grow shorter and the leaves grow golden, the Sun leaves its station where I was born in flesh nigh three decades ago, and it retakes for the first time its station where I was born in spirit.  One year ago, I embarked on the spiritual endeavor of the iyaworaje of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, and with the sunrise of this morning, it has concluded.

Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the divinities of all the realms, who preside over all the elements of creation created by the Creator Almighty.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Diviner Priest of the Divine, the impartial witness of fate, the solemn scribe of destiny.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Trickster of the Crossroads, the living paradox, the critical instigator.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Silent Hunter of Prey and Criminals, tracking the paths of justice and righteousness.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Old Mountain King in White, covering the world in peace, purity, and wisdom.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Clever Queen, Warrior of the Winds, the gatekeeper of transitions and metamorphosis.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Charitable Lady of the Sweet Waters, letting flow freely the finest luxuries of life.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Mother Empress of the Ocean, the reason our tears and sweat are salty like her seas.
Honor, gratitude, praise, and power to the Fulminous Lord of Drums and Thunder, bestowing unto us the divine right of royalty.

All my honor, gratitude, praise, power, and total respect to the Blacksmith Warrior, the intelligent begetter of civilization and technology, the master of all tools, the one who cuts for life and death, the one who pierces for healing and killing, the alchemist and metallurgist of the animate and inanimate, the first who tastes blood, the reason of the red in our blood, the spiller of blood upon the earth, the Lord Of Iron and the Lord In Iron.  Hail to you, my lord, my king, my warrior, my commander, my defender, my protector, my patron saint, my guardian angel, my god, my father, my crown.  Hail to you, each and every day of my life, for I always was and always shall be your son.  Grant me your blessing, your guidance, your wisdom, your wit, your inventiveness, your ingenuity, your strength, your courage, your constitution, your protection.

A mà là!  Ògún Ààrẹ’ré, a mà là e a!  A fẹ́’re yọ̀, a fẹ́’re yọ̀; a fẹ́’re yọ̀, a fẹ́’re yọ̀!

Maferefun Ògún.  Modupé Ògún.

Ashé, ashé, ashé.

 

(No, dear reader, I’m not gonna stop posting about Hermetic, PGM, geomantic, or other occult stuff.  That will still be the focus of my blog, as it always was; don’t worry, no need for concern.  And yes, this does mean that in the near future I’ll be opening up for divination and other services.)

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The Nature of Trust of a Tool

One of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands, “Elissa” by the Crüxshadows, has a particularly poignant bridge towards the end:

Everyone has a purpose
Hidden within our lives
Something we were meant to do
Or feel before we die

It’s not particularly hard to interpret this in a Hermetic or other occult sense, if you know anything about True Will or, said another way, divine destiny.  Everyone is, in some sense, a tool of the Divine or of the Almighty.  Everyone has something that we Chose and Want to accomplish in this world we find ourselves born in, something that only we can properly accomplish.  It’s not just anything, but a particular something that is the only Thing, the only Point or Cause, of our being incarnated here.  Everything we do in our lives is either essential development and build-up to attaining and maintaining that Thing, or nonessential window-dressing that can add flavor (either sweetness or bitterness) to that goal.  So long as we Work towards that Thing, no matter how roundabout or directly, we’re doing what we need to do; we might make it easier or harder for ourselves in the process, and we may very well get waylaid or misled on our paths, but the point still stands that there is a Thing that we must Do, and all that we Work towards is in service of that Thing.

I’ve brought up the idea before that, if we envision the whole grand scheme of things, the Cosmos, as a giant machine, then everyone is a gear in that machine.  So long as we keep on doing what we need to do, every part works in harmony with every other part, and the machine works well.  If even one part, however, gets out of sync or decides to revolt, then much of the rest of the system we find ourselves in can malfunction or break down, and other parts have to accommodate the malfunction until things get into proper working order again.  (This is why life isn’t perfect, I suppose.)  Kalagni of Blue Flame Magick once described this to me (in a discussion on True Will) as how a solar system works: the planets don’t need to think or plan or consciously strive towards orbiting the Sun, they just do it naturally as an expression of their selves and their purpose.  But imagine, dear reader, if a rogue planet suddenly whipped itself into our solar system, or worse, imagine if one of our own planets suddenly got a wild hare up its axis of rotation and jumped out of its orbit.  What happens?  The other planets get knocked out of their own orbits, potentially colliding with other planets or celestial bodies, and the whole system gets out of whack until it finds a new equilibrium to settle down in.  There’s no guarantee that this equilibrium will be equivalent to the previous one, or that the solar system as a whole will survive such an accident, but hey, shit happens.  The Cosmos will do what it needs to do in order to work out its own problems, and its our job to make sure that we do our own Work accordingly to handle our Will, regardless of what the vicissitudes of fate throw at us.

Rather than just thinking of ourselves as gears in a machine, however, consider this from another perspective: that we are tools in the hands of God.  Same idea, just a slightly different expression, but now we pick up other and different concerns.  Every tool is built so as to fix a particular problem: a hammer pushes things in, a crowbar gets things out, tape holds things together quickly but temporarily, glue holds things together over time but more permanently, and so forth.  Every tool has one particular job that it does well; it’s rare to find a true multipurpose tool, since a tool that tries to do many things equally well doesn’t do any particularly thing exceptionally well, especially when compared to a true single-purpose tool.  We each have a particular purpose, and we are the tool built to Work towards that purpose.  Finding what that purpose is (specifically or generally) can not only tell us what we need to do, but also tell us more about ourselves, what we were meant to do, and why we came into the world to do it.  A sword does not hammer in nails, and trying to use a sword as a hammer can result in chipped blades, bent nails, and an overall terrible job of doing something that probably was meant for someone else.

But there’s more to this metaphor of us being made as cosmic tools.  Tools must be properly maintained in order to do their job, either well or even passably.  Consider the sword (and for this, I suggest taking a short detour and reading Meti’s Sword Manual, a text written in service of my new favorite webcomic, Kill Six Billion Demons, which I think every occultist today should read and follow because it’s wonderful).  A sword must be kept oiled so as to prevent rust, out of extreme heat so that it does not warp, and sharpened so that it can actually cut; a sword is made for cutting, and so everything the sword does must be in service of that purpose, and the sword must be kept in a good condition so as to be able to accomplish that purpose.  Further, even when a sword is used to cut, it must be used in a proper way: trying to cut a hardwood tree or a stone will often yield a nicked, chipped, or broken blade, leaving it in a worse condition than it was before due to improper use; another tool for cutting of that specific type, such as an axe or a chisel, would be better, even though they all “cut” in some sense.  It is a combination of knowing both how to maintain a tool before it is used and when to use a tool that preserves the tool for when it is truly needed to do its job well.

Moreover, all a sword does is cut; it is a tool for cutting, and it does so without thought, leaving thought to the wielder of the sword.  A sword does not second-guess itself, and a sword does not make half-cuts or mock-cuts.  A sword cuts, just as its wielder intends for it to.  In the hands of a skilled swordsman, a sword can cut God; in the hands of an untrained one, a sword will cut everything except the intended target, usually the wielder himself.  The sword does not particularly care, because the sword’s purpose is not to plan how to cut, just to cut.  Happily, when we talk about Divinity, we can generally assume that God and the gods are Platonically capital-G Good, and therefore know what is Good and True, and therefore, as tools in their hands, we can have faith that they will not use us when we are not meant to be used.  It’s when we try to act on our own that we need to either have trust in ourselves to do what is right when it is right, or to abandon the situation entirely and avoid what should be avoided.  It’s when we take matters into our own hands, or leave ourselves to be put into the hands of anything less than Divinity, that we risk putting ourselves in harm’s way more than is absolutely necessary, and risk coming out all the worse for it.

How much trust do you put in yourself to know what is proper for you to do?  How can you trust yourself to do what is right and proper for you when the moment is called for?

I’ve been mulling over these problems over the past few days, and…well, it hasn’t been the most pleasant of self-conversations.  I admit that I enjoy dealing in absolutes as much as the next ceremonial magician (or, for that matter, human being with a finite consciousness that likes using rubrics and models of reality qua reality), and I would like to say that I trust myself to do what is right in all circumstances, that I am trustworthy to all.  To do so, however, would be a lie, and I can feel it singeing my heart whenever I even try to complete the thought of saying it.  I, myself, have done a number of regrettable, unfortunate, downright shitty things that I would like to say that I’ve put behind me, that I’ve learned from, that I’ve become better than.  And…the truth is, I haven’t.  I still beat myself up for some of the things I’ve done and said, as much as I try to forgive myself.  I still worry about slipping up again, about making the same mistakes, about committing the same crimes in the future and hurting those whom I hold dear, or myself, or my opportunities and chances for making myself better.  I fear that I’m going to be no better than I always have been, making the same excuses for the same bullshit that I would pull over and over again even given half a chance at it, even though I know better from my own experience that I should never have done them even once.

So, no, I can’t say that I trust myself as a rule, or that I trust myself in all situations to do what’s right in all cases where it’s called for.  I don’t see myself as trustworthy, and honestly, considering why others might consider me trustworthy makes me feel like an awful liar who’s mislead anyone and everyone who’s even cast an eye towards me.  And yet, I know that I have no immediate reason or way to betray these people, nor do I want to.  With even a little introspection, I know what can mislead me into a bad course of action, and what my triggers and temptations are, and I know that within a certain set of parameters, there’s neither any reason nor way to betray them, so I can be trusted, at least a little bit.  I’ve come to appreciate the saying “I trust them as far as I can throw them” in a more nuanced light; within a certain range of expectations and situations, I can be trustworthy, and I can claim to properly and rightfully hold trust, even for myself without that heart-singe, up to a point.  It’s beyond that point that I worry, because I know that if I were to go beyond such a point where it’s not just possible but probable for me to slip up, it’d be more difficult (not impossible!) to come out the other end without erring.

I can’t say that I absolutely trust myself, but I can say that I trust myself up to a point.  For most people, with whom my interactions are limited to a particular sphere of life or action, the points at which I can’t be trusted fall so far out of that sphere that there’s no need to consider me to be anything but trustworthy.  For others, though, the story changes.  I can be trusted with qualifications, and though I’d like to say I’m trustworthy without them, I can’t honestly say that.

While I accept that—mostly, and without the burn of telling a lie to myself—I’m not satisfied with it.  Far from it; while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I hate myself for not being trustworthy across all cases and situations, I’m certainly not pleased with myself for it, and I want to make myself better.  I want to be able to do my Work without the distractions of regret, fear, worry, self-loathing, and that calls for either papering over the root cause and hoping it never rears its ugly head again (hah!), or actually doing the Work to improve myself to make my overall Work better without such distraction, as much as I am able.  As a sword, I must make sure that I am in the right condition to do my Work, and only limit myself to the range of Work that I am able to do in the form and condition I’m in; more than that, I must hone, tune, and strengthen myself to be able to push my limits, within which I am comfortable enough to work without distraction, and understand the areas into which I push my boundaries and limits.  If I am trustworthy only up to a point, by my own estimation, I need to push that point further so that I can become more trustworthy, and strive to not simply strut past it without care and end up wrecking myself or, worse, those around me.

Self-knowledge, either given to one by oracle or discovered through one’s own life, can hurt in the process of obtaining it.  But they who know more about themselves know how to live differently and better than if they had no such knowledge.  I know the situations in which I risk my own well-being, happiness, and success, and I stride into them at my own peril.  Dealing in absolutes as I do, the nebulous and unpredictable “being at risk of erring and not knowing how I would act” is tantamount to the definite “I will err”, and it’s safer to simply stay out of situations that I’ve been warned away from.  Should the case arise that I find myself in such a situation, it’d behoove me to find my way back out at my earliest convenience while keeping up my guard.  Still, I don’t want to be limited to this; even if the nature of my being is always to be temped by a particular set of things, there’s nothing saying I can’t strengthen myself to resist them all the more while also building myself up to avoid them at the same time.

A tool, in order to accomplish its purpose, must be in the right condition for it to be used; it must be built, maintained, and strengthened well, and having done so, it will serve a lifetime (or more) of wonders.  But a tool is only as useful as the skill of the one who wields it.  When we take ourselves into our own hands, regardless of whether that’s proper and right for us to do so, we must be sure to know how to condition the tool of our Selves as well as the limitations of use thereof, while always striving to increase our skill and reach of using the tool.  There may be upper limits to what we can accomplish, both as tool and wielder, but so long as we always strive to reach them, we’re doing all the Work we can in service of our Will.

Recollection in its Proper Time

Tonight begins the third Mercury retrograde period of 2016.  It entered its shadow on August 10, and entered into retrograde tonight on August 30; it will pause again to go direct on September 22, and will be back to its proper speed on October 6.  All this happens within its own domicile sign of Virgo.  The next time Mercury goes retrograde is after entering into its shadow on December 1, then hitting its retrograde station on December 19, going direct again on January 8, 2017, and getting out of its shadow on January 27; this begins when Mercury is in Capricorn, and ends when Mercury is back in Sagittarius.  As many of my readers already know, when a planet goes into retrograde motion, the things associated with that planet tend to go backwards, awry, or wonky in some way.  Given that Mercury governs all things associated with travel, commuting, divination, communication, study, memory, speech, trade, technology, and planning, expect difficulties, delays, repeats, and do-overs aplenty during this time.  Because this specific Mercury retrograde period is all within the mercurial sign of Virgo, expect this to be a double whammy for many people.  It’s not all that bad; for most people, you just need to do your three-point tap before you leave the house, leave ample time to get to work, and always read through any and all documentation twice before making a decision and you’ll be fine.  For Hermetic magicians and those who work closely with Hermes, or for those who have Mercury as a particular strong planet in their natal horoscope, you may want to step more carefully, given our strong connections to this kind of energy.  Take this time to review your life, trace your steps, and reflect on all the things that compose you and your life before the retrograde period is over; use this time well, and don’t freak out about it.

For the nights that Mercury goes retrograde, I prescribe an offering to Hermes much as the usual: candles, incense, libation, and prayer, preceded by the usual honors to Hestia and Zeus.  I do this because I recognize the physical planet of Mercury, or Stilb­­­­­ōn, as the body of the god, however distinct or connected as it may be from his divine presence, and because I recognize the change in motion of the planet as a change in energy and action of the god.  However, I do things a little differently for these particular nights to mark the occasion.  For this, instead of using the usual Orphic Hymn for Hermes (number 27), I recite the one for Hermes Chthonios, the terrestrial and underworld aspect (number 56), which goes like this:

Hermes I call, whom Fate decrees to dwell
In the dire path which leads to deepest hell;
O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine
Of Dionysius, parent of the vine
And of celestial Venus, Paphian queen,
Dark eye-lashed Goddess of a lovely mien;
Who constant wanderest through the sacred feats
Where hell’s dread empress, Proserpine, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way
When Fate decrees to regions void of day;
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly,
Or lulls to slumberous rest the weary eye;
For Proserpine through Tartarus dark and wide
Gave thee forever flowing souls to guide.
Come, blessed power, the sacrifice attend,
And grant our mystic works a happy end.

For the libation, instead of my usual wine mixed with olive oil, I only offer clean, pure water, and that only after thoroughly cleaning and polishing out his offering vessel.  Normally, I’d give it a good rinse to get any of the remains from the previous offering and wipe out any remaining residue, but I take this opportunity to thoroughly clean and polish the whole thing until it shines like new.  Similarly, I also remove all old offerings and clean his shrine.

Additionally, and most distinctly, I wrap my image of Hermes in a black shroud, so that the entire body and form is occluded.  The shroud remains until the planet leaves retrograde, at which point I remove the shroud and make the usual offerings of wine and ouranic prayer.  Between these two dates, however, I make no further offerings or direct interaction with the god.

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Why the unusual ritual offering of water, chthonic prayers, and the shroud?  This is all because Mercury goes into retrograde.  In a sense, this is the unusual time where Hermes is a little more trickstery, a little more baneful than at other times, and…honestly, while it’s not a bad thing, I don’t want that influence in my life more than is absolutely necessary.  To that end, I cover Hermes in a shroud to insulate him from the outside world so that he can focus on his own work, and in a way, insulate me from him so that I’m not affected by his backwards-looking gaze.  This ritual period is where I work with Hermes in an apotropaic manner only, turning away the difficulties posed by Mercury retrograde and keeping me insulated and blocked off from them.  For a similar reason, I only offer water that is clean and pure, rather than dark wine.  I want to give Hermes that which is clean and clear so that I can obtain the same, keeping my eyes and my ears clean and clear from confusion, my path and my travels from obstacles, my mind and my heart from illusion, my hands and my feet from difficulty.  Offering only water to clean the ways helps me and helps Hermes to help me keep my life open and free during the retrograde; wine would obscure it in too dark a way during too dark a time, oil beslickens it in too unpredictable a way during too unpredictable a time.  To me and for my work with the god, when Mercury goes retrograde, Hermes stops flying across the skies and seas and travels primarily between our world and the underworld.  Previously, Hermes instructed me to only recite his chthonic hymn during nighttime, while the ouranic one could be done at any time; during retrograde periods, if I ever feel a need to use a hymn, it will only ever be the chthonic one.

When a planet goes retrograde, it is only an apparent illusion that the planet goes backwards through the skies and the stars.  In reality, due to the mechanics of our heliocentric solar system, retrograde periods are caused when the planet in question is closest to our own planet.  In a sense, that’s what causes all these weird happenings involving the things that planet governs; rather than being at a healthy objective distance for us to interact with, the energies of that planet suddenly become too close for comfort, hidden right under our nose, and befuddled all up in our mind as subjective rather than objective and distant.  Mercury is no exception, and in fact is the poster child for retrograde energies, even if only because it’s the planet that goes into retrograde motion the most often.  It’s the time when all these energies and influences turn inward instead of outward, which would be fine if we didn’t have all these pesky civilized things we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, like jobs and commuting and business and whatnot.  Rather than posting melodramatic memes on Facebook fuming about Mercury retrograde, I try to go with the flow, respecting it and accepting it in a way that helps me deal with the resulting chaos, and changing my habits and works accordingly.

So, for someone like me who’s so entrenched in mercurial energies in both the religious sense (priest of Hermes), the magical sense (Hermetic magician), and the career sense (software engineer), and for someone whose own natal Mercury is already retrograde and dignified, what’s the best way for me to spend this retrograde period?  For that matter, what’s the best way we can all spend this time?  Mercury, the planet of thought and memory and learning, is going backwards, so it behooves us all to go backwards in the same way: spend this month in a time of reflection, reminding, recollection, and remembrance.  Think of your whole life and how you got here, even to the physical place you are.  Think of all the people, from teachers and parents to friends and enemies, who had even the smallest influence on your character.  Think of all the lessons you’ve learned, sitting down at a desk or running around in your life, which helped shape how you think and how you act.  Think of all your ancestors, from those who passed away in your lifetime to the countless generations back before you, who lived and fought and rejoiced and died so that you too can share in this incarnation of flesh and blood and breath and bone.

Reflect on yourself, and see who you are both inside and out.  Remind yourself, and re-mind yourself. Recollect yourself, and re-collect yourself.  Remember yourself, and re-member yourself.  By these, you will come to know yourself, and that’s really the whole goal here for any of us, isn’t it?

For myself…gods, how did I get here?  Back in middle school, I dabbled with my brother’s hand-me-downs from his short voyage into neopaganism, and learned the basics of divination from my Tarot-reading sister.  In high school, I kept alive a healthy imagination for new worlds and poetry and the power of the written word in personal journals to explore my own internal landscape.  In college, I began my studies of geomancy and medieval astrology, and started this blog on Blogspot as a devotional for XaTuring, the Great Worm of the Internet.  I met so many people, so few of whom I have in my life anymore because I was only barely developing a social life after intense bullying in elementary school, and I recently turned down the invitation for my high school’s ten-year reunion because screw those people and the awkwardness and the lack of connections I never care to suffer through again.  I dated and fucked up and made it better and repeated the process so many times, and showed me my own capabilities, my own culpabilities, and my own tendencies to virtue and to vice.

After college, I pined and loathed and laughed and fucked around and fucked with others and fucked others and been fucked by others.  I began my own Great Work, and built up my own geomantic practice and social presence both online and offline.  I developed my own style of working under Fr. Rufus Opus, and met people of varying paths both light and dark, both right-handed and left-handed, both brilliantly alive and gloriously dead.  I met the love of my life through magic on both our ends, and we began to build ourselves together, only to get cut down together by misplaced trust and found it again with allies and colleagues.  We married, on accident for us and by divine provenance from the gods.  We bought a house.  I changed jobs to one that I was encouraged by multiple spirits to take, only to suffer and discover my own limits but which allowed me the means to grow privately even more.  I changed jobs back once more, solidifying my career path into one that I am fundamentally comfortable and safe within among colleagues and coworkers I know and trust and love.

I have gone from having neither shrines nor altars to one, then two, then four, all the way to having a house full of them and beginning what is truly a temple to recognize all the powers, and moreover, all our powers and deities.  I have gone from having a journal to a notebook to a blog to several ebooks and a full book on the way.  I have gone from school to college to federal job, within each from hell to heaven and back and again.  I have gone from single to committed to broken down to broken up and back again, and now to marriage and partnership on all levels of human existence.  I have gone from having friends to enemies, and enemies to friends.  I have gone from one computer to the next, one operating system to the next, shifting data and programs around and finding new and better ways to do what I need to do.  I have gone from no debt to student debt to low debt to car debt to credit debt to mortgage.  I have gone from hair to skinhead and back.  I have gone from pristine to consecrated tattoos, from whole to pierced to whole again.  I have gone from spiritually fearful to excited to exasperated, both towards people and to spirit alike.  I have gone from repulsed by even the notion of rot to almost enjoying the smell as it passes by me in the forest or in the basement.  I have gone from despising emotion to recognizing it to manifesting it to using it and being used by it.  I have gone from one place to another in every way and in every sense.  Just as all motion is change, then truly, in so many ways, as I have gone, so have I changed.

And yet, underlying all that, there’s so much that has never changed.  I still hunger, like a crazed man starved for years, for knowledge and power and glory and wisdom.  I still rejoice with friends around me.  I still love, and I still love to create and to build and to fortify and to defend.  I still make mistakes.  I still make successes.  I still write, privately for myself and publicly for others, sometimes for free and sometimes for pay.  I still code and woodburn and bead and craft and cook.  I still love the wind through my hair and the rain on my palms.  No matter how much I change from past-me to present-me, I am still me.  I still move with the world, and that when I move the world, the world moves me.  No matter how much I move, I am still.  Just as all motion is change, then truly, in so many ways, as I have remained still, so have I remained the same.

I see my hands, and how they have maintained the same bone structure, and yet have grown and have touched and used so many things.  I see my eyes, and how the irises still have their intricate patterns, and yet gleam differently than they ever did, both brighter and dimmer than ever before.  I see my body, and how the flesh is still recognizably mine, and yet have so many scars and additions and subtractions.  By remembering all the things I have done, I re-member myself, and make my body whole from parts.  By reflecting my emotions I have felt, I re-flex myself, and make my soul whole from parts.  By recollecting all the things I have said, I re-collect myself, and make my spirit whole from parts.  By reminding all my thoughts I have thought, I re-mind myself, and make my mind whole from parts.  And, in doing so, by remembering and reflecting and recollecting and reminding, I am become a sum of the parts, and become a whole, and become greater than the sum of the parts.  There is no one thing of, in, or about me that is me, and yet it all comes together to make me.

Retrogression is for retrospection; we go backwards to look backwards.  Use this time well; as Hermes descends among us and below us, he goes to find the lost and bring them to their proper place.  Whether these are lost items, lost tasks, lost souls, or lost goals, it serves us well to go back and find ourselves in this chaos so that we can once more bring order to ourselves and, thus, to our worlds.  This is not a time for tools, except for the pen and paper in the study; this is not a time for communication, except for our own thoughts echoing in our heads; this is not a time for action, except for acting within ourselves in our own internal spaces; this is not a time for learning, except to relearn what we already forgot.  Turn back, dear reader, not for fear for your life to stop, but for faith for your life to continue.

On Equal Exchange

Recently, I was confronted by someone who thought I was crazy for charging for geomancy readings.*  He himself is a diviner, but finds it displeasing that I insist on being paid for divination.  I won’t get into why (it’s ultimately a matter of culture and tradition), and suffice it to say that it’s not a debate I want to continue here.

My rule here is simple: if you do work, you deserve to get paid for the work.  Yes, I know it’s a recurring issue in Western occultism, especially in the New Age community, where I see different versions of the same thing:

  • “It’s a divine gift, and so you shouldn’t charge for it.”  It’s a divine gift I have the capability for logic, speaking, and writing, and I get paid for those all the same.  It’s a divine gift that I have an able body that can carry heavy loads, and I get paid for that all the same.  It’s a divine gift that I have a talent for understanding and working with computers, and I get paid for those all the same.  Divination and ritual are no different.
  • “You shouldn’t get the mundane mixed up in the spiritual.”  There’s no fundamental distinction between the spiritual and mundane; they’re all part of the world we live in, and my spiritual work is fully invested in my mundane life and vice versa.
  • “People won’t value it if they pay for it.” They value the help of doctors and lawyers who get paid, yes?  They value the roads and buildings made by engineers who get paid, yes?  Conversely, I see people tossing pirated PDFs around and disparaging bootleg copies of music and movies; they’re not paying the creators, and I see a lot more disrespect and a lot more devaluing when people get stuff for free than when they pay for it.    Getting stuff for free very nearly always leads to people taking you for granted, and even just outright ignoring you because “oh, this dude was free, and I can get more and other free opinions anyway”.
  • “People won’t know if you’re telling the truth if they pay you.” Trust is a thing that has to be built and earned, I agree, but I hope that I’ve done that enough by this point.  If you can’t trust me, then why are you even bothering coming to me?  It’s part of my own schpiel that I am committed to telling you whatever I see, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant, and I commonly remark on how down-to-earth geomancy is with its oft-dire, sometimes-heavy news.

Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.  Each ritual act I do is informed and based on a decade of study; when you ask me for something, you call on my expertise.  Each ritual act I do takes time, supplies, and energy; when you ask me for something, you take up my resources.  Each ritual act I do is done with the intent of good success, good strength, and good character; when you ask me for something, I am beholden to carry out my charge to you.  For these reasons, I request payment.  If you do not pay, I’m giving you things that I have rightfully earned to keep and am under no obligation to share with you, and I have no guarantee that you’ll value what I give you, which is doubly a waste from my point of view.

Now, I’m not so stone-hearted that I cannot make exceptions.  I do!  For those who are truly destitute, for those who have nothing to give, for those who can barter or trade in other ways, I’m more than willing to reconsider my terms, but in the end, it has to be an equal exchange.  We live in a culture where buy-one-get-one-free deals are a common thing, where we’re accustomed to getting stuff for free, where we can just slide by on pirated PDFs instead of buying actual books, where we take for granted the thousands of years and generations that went before us to get us to where we are today; in some ways, we’re taught that money or trade in any form (χαιρε Ερμη!) is evil and inherently unspiritual, but that’s so far from the truth that it’s ridiculous.  I don’t stand for that, and I urge you to do the same.

Additionally, I am not so greedy that I overcharge.  I have my own standards and rates, and I know where my limitations lie.  I know my peers, what my skill level is among them, and what they charge for the same amount of work.  I will gladly direct you to someone who can help if I know that I cannot or will not.  I try to be as fair as I can to both you and to myself, so that you’re not overpaying for what I give to you, and I’m not overcharging for what you get from me.  In general, I charge less for things I’m not great at, and I charge more for things I am great at, though I still try to make it fair.  If it’s not equal in both directions, then it’s not equal, period.

 

* Just to let you know, yes, I am still doing geomancy readings!  Please contact me for more information; I may not have the listings up on my Etsy anymore for readings, but I still do them through September this year.  Once October comes, I’ll be taking an extended break from doing readings for people that will last for some time, so if you have any questions you’d like clarified, you only have a few months left from me to get them out of the way!  Otherwise, I can direct you to a number of other excellent geomancers and diviners who can help you out at least as much as I can.  As always, I charge US$20.00 per query, but we can hash out what you need during our consultation.  I’m also free for Skype/Google Chat consultations, too!